Gopher tortoises rely on forest fires to clear their habitat of scrub and make room for edible plants to grow. Long and deep burrows shelter these tortoises not only from the fires but from predators. Other species rely on these burrows for their survival too.
Scientific name: Gopherus polyphemus
Tortoise engineers keep their cool in a bush fire.
The burrows of the gopher tortoise are a vital refuge for both it and many other species at risk from the mid-day heat and recurrent bush fires. With a very simple piece of technology - a remote controlled car loaded with a mini-camera, lights and thermometer, Sir David follows a tortoise into its burrow, revealing just why the gopher tortoise's digging expertise is so highly valued.
Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
The Gopher tortoise can be found in a number of locations including: North America. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
The following habitats are found across the Gopher tortoise distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Year assessed: 1996
Classified by: IUCN 2.3
The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a species of the Gopherus genus native to the southeastern United States. The gopher tortoise is seen as a keystone species because it digs burrows that provide shelter for 360 other animal species. They are threatened by predation and habitat destruction.
The gopher tortoise is a representative of the genus Gopherus, which contains the only tortoises native to North America. This species of gopher tortoise is the state reptile of Georgia and the state tortoise of Florida.
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